Solar power developers flouting domestic content norms may face penal action

India plans to penalize solar power firms that are using foreign equipment in projects awarded on the basis that they would only use locally made solar panels and cells
As solar panels account for nearly 60% of a solar power plant’s cost, companies have been using Chinese imports to reduce costs.

As solar panels account for nearly 60% of a solar power plant’s cost, companies have been using Chinese imports to reduce costs.

New Delhi: India plans to penalize solar power developers which are using foreign equipment in power generation projects awarded on the basis that they would only use locally made solar cells and modules, according to two government officials.

To curb such malpractices, the government will make it mandatory for developers to publicly disclose the radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag information of the panels used in solar projects. It will also be incumbent on the developers to share the RFID list of rejected panels.

Mint reported on 7 September that poor quality Chinese solar modules, rejected by developers, were being sold in the domestic market at a discount.

These projects, awarded under the so-called domestic content requirement (DCR) route by state-owned firms, are required to use solar cells and modules made in India. Also, under the solar roof-top scheme, the government gives subsidy on the condition that the modules should be made in India wherein solar cells can be imported.

“We are trying to attack that (malpractices). We have seen that under the DCR projects there have been instances wherein Chinese imports have been used,” said a senior government official, one of the two cited above, requesting anonymity.

Solar modules or panels account for nearly 60% of a solar power project’s cost. For China’s solar panel manufacturing capacity, estimated to be around 70 gigawatts (GW) per year, the major markets are the US, India and China itself.

“A case has been brought to our notice wherein a firm has put Chinese component under the DCR programme. We will take action against such cases. We are looking into such practices…We are looking into cases wherever we receive a complaint that under the DCR somebody has used foreign component,” the official added.

Indian companies are aware of the malpractice.

“The entire policy faces a risk when companies start flouting the existing rules which are there to promote domestic manufacturing and local jobs. It’s basically kind of profiteering out of a policy custom made for local jobs and it’s very important that the investigation is carried out in a time-bound manner and suitable action is taken against the people who are doing such activities,” said Ketan Mehta, managing director and chief executive of Rays Power Infra, a solar project developer.

The Indian government introduced stringent quality norms in August for solar equipment to be sold in the country and made the destruction of sub-standard equipment mandatory.

“We are planning that RFID of each module has to be captured and uploaded somewhere so that cross-checking happens. Rejected modules RFID will also be captured,” said another government official who also didn’t want to be identified.

Also, there have been allegations of government subsidy being availed multiple times on the same set of panels at multiple locations.

“Problem is more where it is subsidy related. A case in point being roof-top solar projects where the common man doesn’t know what quality he is getting. All those things have to be captured in RFID,” said the second government official cited above.

Of India’s plan to add 100 gigawatt (GW) of solar power capacity by 2022, 40GW is to come from roof-top projects.

“It can also happen that someone puts a panel on a rooftop and claims subsidy and then removes it and puts it on another rooftop to claim subsidy. There is a possibility of it happening. This kind of thing will prevent it,” added the second official.

Queries emailed to a spokesperson for the new and renewable energy ministry on 16 November remained unanswered.

“Tracking of modules on a central data base not only gives convenience to the buyer that they can check the manufacturing date, name of the module and its quality on a central data base but also it will help government in tracking a single module not being used on two or three places and claims the benefits again and again in terms of subsidy and shift to some other places,” added Mehta of Rays Power Infra.

With the average efficiency of a solar panel usually just 16-22%, sub-standard quality will impact generation. India has also been conducting an anti-dumping investigation on solar equipment from China, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Source: LiveMint

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MNRE Implements Quality Control Measures to Address Low Quality Solar Equipment

Gazette-notification_quality-control-order-of-SPV-Systems-Devices

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has begun implementing a quality control order that requires manufacturers to register with the Bureau of Indian Standards for the use of a “Standard Mark” to comply with the Indian quality standard.

The order, titled “Solar Photovoltaics/Systems/Devices/Components Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) Order, 2017” is scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2018. The MNRE has asked stakeholders to provide views and comments by November 28, 2017.

The order was initially slated to come into force on September 5, 2018, one year after its date of publication in the Official Gazette of the Government of India. However, the MNRE shortened the waiting period to speed up the start of order enforcement. The draft technical regulation for the order was first released in August 2016.

Speaking about the order, an MNRE official previously told Mercom, “This is a necessary step, we have been hearing from stakeholders that project quality should improve, and this order will take care of the quality of materials utilized.” The official added that the order is also expected to stop the supply of below-par modules and other supplies to India and increase the project capacity utilization factor (CUF).

When asked why the order is being enforced nine months ahead of its original commencement date of September 5, 2018, the same MNRE official said, “Not much tendering has been done in the past few months, in the new financial year all developers and tendering agencies will plan their market strategies, it’s better that the policy is in place before a flurry of activity begins.”

The MNRE official went on to say that implementing the order before the start of the next fiscal year will give all stakeholders ample time to understand its implications and adjust accordingly.

Of late, the MNRE has been tying up loose ends in an effort to improve project quality. Recently, the MNRE also issued a clarification for the DC system configurations applicable to off-grid and grid-connected solar PV applications.

All of this activity comes as some developers are cutting corners to make project economics work in the current highly competitive auction environment. There is concern in the industry that many of these projects may not last 10 years, let alone the full length of their 25-year PPAs.

Source: Mercom

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KERC Sets New Benchmark Tariff of Rs.4.36 (~$0.064)/kWh for Grid Connected Large-Scale Solar Projects for FY2017-18

The Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) has set Rs.4.36 (~$0.064)/kWh as the benchmark tariff for grid-connected large-scale solar projects for financial year (FY) 2017-18. The new benchmark tariff will be applicable to all new grid-connected MW-scale solar PV projects entering into power purchase agreements (PPA) on or after April 1, 2017, and before April 1, 2018.

The new benchmark tariff is Rs.2.15 (~$0.033) less than the benchmark tariff of FY2016-17. The KERC has taken into consideration the declining module prices while determining the new benchmark tariff.

The KERC had proposed a new benchmark tariff in March of Rs.4.51 (~$0.066)/kWh for solar PV projects. The final benchmark tariff set is about 3 percent lower.

The KERC has regulated, the tariff determined will also be applicable to those grid connected megawatt-scale solar PV projects for which PPAs were entered into before April 1,2017, but, are not commissioned within the specified commercial operation date (COD) and achieve COD during the period from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018. The approved tariff in respect of solar thermal projects will continue per the commission’s order dated July 30, 2015 and solar rooftop PV projects will remain the same per the commission’s order dated May 2, 2016, until March 31, 2018.

In the new tariff order, the KERC has also specified a debt repayment period of 12 years for project developers.

According to Mercom’s India Solar Project Tracker, Karnataka has 1.1 GW of installed solar capacity as of March 31, 2017, and almost 2.9 GW of development pipeline.

Source: Mercom

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Solar alliance brings sunshine to Bonn summit via Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism (CRMM)

A multilateral market platform for financial risk mitigation proposed at the Bonn climate summit is expected to create a transformative ecosystem for solar power in tropical countries

Countries with high solar power potential have put their muscle behind a common risk mitigation mechanism that could unlock up to USD 15 billion of investments to add 20 GW of photovoltaic capacity in more than 20 countries.

The proposed Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism (CRMM) is a multilateral market platform that has received initial support from countries that include India, France, Australia, Mali, Namibia and Nigeria, among others. A CRMM feasibility study released at the India Pavilion at the climate negotiations in Bonn outlines the 20 GW plan as a pilot phase with an eventual aim to leverage billions of dollars of impact capital to catalyse USD 1 trillion of domestic and international private institutional capital. CRMM could help build over 1 TW, or 1000 GW, of solar power generation capacity in low and middle-income countries by 2030, the study claimed.

The study was designed by a multi-stakeholder taskforce comprising the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Currency Exchange Fund (TCX) and the Terrawatt Initiative (TWI) on the request of 17 signatory countries of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

“As much as 75% of the cost of solar power is the cost of finance,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW. “The pooling of risks would reduce double counting of risk variables, providing a single guarantee cover at prices lower than the additive price of existing insurance products.”

The study presents recommendations to governments of low and middle-income countries to accelerate their solar energy generation capacity, at scale and in local currency. The idea is to develop a sustainable financial ecosystem, centred around an international guarantee mechanism, which could pool various types of risks and pool projects across many countries to lower the costs of hedging against those risks.

Financing of solar power generation assets in a majority of developing countries suffers from a lack of risk mitigation tools, a high perception of risk among investors, high transaction costs, small project sizes, and lack of scale. Investors, developers, and other stakeholders need transparency and clarity of process, which is often missing in some countries. CRMM is designed to create a global solar market, boosting confidence among the international development community and private and public institutional financiers, to help meet international climate targets in countries with high solar potential.

The proposed mechanism is aligned with the aims of the ISA, jointly launched by India and France at the 21stConference of Parties at Paris in 2015. It is set to become a treaty-based intergovernmental international organisation on 6 December, with the Republic of Guinea becoming the 15th country to ratify the ISA Framework Agreement last week. The total number of ISA member countries has now increased to 44. “There are 121 countries totally or partially within the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and are therefore eligible to be full members of ISA,” Anand Kumar, Secretary at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), said in Bonn.

“CRMM — the Paris Guarantee Fund — is a major step in the implementation of the Paris Declaration of the International Solar Alliance adopted on 30 November 2015 and of the ISA Programme aimed at mobilising affordable finance at scale,” said Upendra Tripathy, Interim Director General of ISA. “This instrument will dramatically lower the cost of finance for renewable energy and the overall price of electricity.”

The CRMM pilot phase will be launched in 2018. The aim of the pilot is to achieve a critical size and demonstrate its cost effectiveness in pooling and aggregating capital, and mitigating risks at an international level.

Indian experience

The Indian experience in developing large scale solar energy has shown that adequate distribution of risk is critical to project success. “The CRMM is a welcome announcement by the International Solar Alliance, and can give India an opportunity to show other developing countries a path forward towards accelerated solar deployment.” said Bhaskar Deol, CEO of Mynergy, which provides financing solutions for distributed renewable energy projects in India. “Success for ISA member countries will depend on their ability to mobilise finance for small scale, distributed solar projects, which suffer from risks such as off-taker risk, currency risk and policy uncertainly.”

Mudit Jain, senior manager at Bridge to India, a cleantech consultancy, said the biggest impediment for solar project development in low-middle income countries is the scarcity and high cost of capital. “If the CRMM mechanism can mitigate the political, off-taker and foreign exchange risks, it would definitely attract the low-cost capital, ultimately leading to large-scale solar deployment,” Jain told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

“However, USD 1 billion may not be sufficient to attract USD 15 billion capital in low-income countries where the risk is much higher and will require higher provisions for risk mitigation. I presume that the pilot phase would be targeted in the countries with already existing mechanism to lower the aforementioned risks to a certain extent, including India.”

CRMM could have a positive impact because it will reduce the amount of effort that is required in raising funds, which is a major concern in India, according to Ritesh Pothan, an expert in the clean energy sector. “If it is able to reduce the interest rate and able to bring in a good rate, then there is a lot of scope for doing storage and a lot of scope for growth in the Indian market, not only from the solar perspective, but also from the ancillary to solar industry as well,” he said.

Many big companies in India are opting for onsite solar power projects – but most micro, small and medium enterprises and growing businesses – find it difficult to bear high initial cost of solar projects as availing finance is difficult. “Such an initiative will help the country in solar adoption,” Anshumaan Bhatnagar, Director of Sunshot Technologies Pvt Ltd, told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

However, a lot of basic work will have to be done before starting any kind of mitigation process as part of this mechanism, says Ajith Gopi, Head of Technical Consultancy Division and Programme Officer at Agency for Non-conventional Energy and Rural Technology (ANERT), a government of Kerala organisation.

“Most of the investments are coming in the solar off-grid sector, which is a major area for South East Asian countries and sub-Saharan countries. The way to implement it is you have to find a strategy by getting a clear picture of how we can implement this in mostly the off-grid sector, since a majority of the companies are involved in the grid-connected market,” he said. “It will be very difficult for private companies to travel to remote locations and provide off-grid solutions to societies.”

This however would not be a major impediment to the solar energy initiative of India and other member countries, Indian officials said. Although coal will continue to be use in the Indian energy sector, “we’re going ahead with our focus on renewable energy and will have 40% of our power from renewable energy by 2040,” said C.K Mishra, Secretary at India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC).

“We are targeting 1,000 GW (1 TW) solar in all ISA countries by 2030 (in addition to what has already been installed),” said Renewables Secretary Anand Kumar.

Source: India Climate Dialogue

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Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism – Feasibility Study – Nov 2017

This feasibility report on the Common Risk Mitigation Facility (“CRMM”) (the Study) has been driven by governments of seventeen (17) nations with strong solar potential – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, India, France, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Chad and Yemen – as a way for scaling investments in solar power generation in their countries and in other developing countries. In May 2017, these nations mandated a multi-stakeholder task force consisting of the Terrawatt Initiative, The Currency Exchange Fund (TCX), the World Bank Group, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), and the Confederation of Indian Industry, (the “Task Force”) to conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing CRMM, including broad based consultation with relevant stakeholders (see Annex 1 : Draft Concept note.).

The main objectives were stated in this extract taken from the Office Memorandum:

The study is in line with the framework of the International Solar Alliance (ISA); and specifically addresses its mandate to aggregate and harmonize frameworks for investment.1 In particular, this study aims to operationalise ISA’s programme for “Affordable Finance at Scale” initiated by both India and France. This is open to all nations on a voluntary basis, and as part of this initiative, participating countries propose to2:

1 2

§ Share and aggregate their financing needs for solar production assets through a common platform;

§ Harmonize their contractual and regulatory frameworks to adopt best international practices to the extent necessary for attracting investments;

CEEW – CRMM Feasibility Study 14 Nov 2017

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RERC Sets Benchmark Tariff of ₹3.93/kWh for Solar PV Projects in Rajasthan for FY 2017-18

The Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC) has fixed ₹3.93 (~$0.06)/kWh as the generic tariff for solar PV projects without accelerated depreciation (AD) in Rajasthan. The tariff is levelized for 25 years. The AD component of the tariff has been fixed at ₹0.27 (~$0.004)/kWh. The new benchmark tariff with AD is ₹3.66 (~$0.056)/kWh.

This tariff will apply to all solar PV projects with signed power purchase agreements (PPA) on or before March 31, 2018, and commissioned on or before March 31, 2019.

RERC Solar Tariff Order for FY 2017-18

The RERC also stated in its tariff order that for rooftop solar PV systems covered under RERC Net Metering Regulations 2015, net excess energy (more than 50 units) exported to the grid by the consumer would be payable at the tariff rate of ₹3.93 (~$0.06)/kWh until the next tariff order is issued by the commission.

This tariff would be payable to all rooftop solar systems developed under the net metering policy during financial year (FY) 2017-18 and earlier, and would be irrespective of any capital grant subsidies or AD benefits.

The RERC has stated that for utility-scale solar projects with capacity more than 5 MW, the generic tariff will act as the upper tariff ceiling for participants of state tenders.

The new benchmark tariff of ₹3.93 (~$0.06)/kWh without AD is 27 percent less than the benchmark tariff of ₹5.40 (~$0.083)/kWh without AD set by RERC in FY 2016-17. In FY 2016-17, the benchmark tariff with AD was ₹4.85 (~$0.074)/kWh, 25 percent more than the new benchmark tariff with AD of ₹3.66 (~$0.056)/kWh.

Module and project cost not based on reality: When calculating the project cost of a solar generation project, the RERC has considered operation and maintenance (O&M) expenses, depreciation, interest on long-term loans, interest on working capital, and return on equity as fixed cost components. The RERC has fixed ₹35.84 million (~$0.55 million)/MW as the benchmark capital cost for solar PV projects in Rajasthan for FY 2017-18. This fixed cost takes into consideration module costs of just $0.25 (~₹16.4)/W. With current module prices in the $0.35-$0.38/W range, these cost considerations are simply not realistic.

“The benchmark tariff setting exercise is not based on reality. For the same time period, Rajasthan has taken a module price consideration of ₹0.25/W while Karnataka has considered its module costs based on ₹0.35/W. They just want to get to a number that is comfortable to them,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.

Break-Up for Capital Cost for Solar Projects for FY 2017-18

Deemed Generation/Must Run Provision: The commission rejected deemed generation for solar and considers it appropriate that the “must run” status must continue and should not be subject to the merit order dispatch principle. However, must run status will not apply in the case of a system operational constraint, which creates an easy way to circumvent the must run status.

There was no consideration given to additional costs associated with GST while calculating capital costs.

Mercom reported in April 2017 that both Tamil Nadu (₹4.50/kWh) and Karnataka (₹4.36/kWh) have set the solar benchmark tariff for FY 2017-18.

According to Mercom’s India Solar Project Tracker, Rajasthan has ~2.1 GW of installed large-scale solar capacity as of September 2017, and almost 1.2 GW under development.

Source: Mercom

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Module quality emerges as new marketing tool for the solar industry

As soon as solar became an asset class, all issues related to component selection – including the modules, the materials used for the module assembly stages, and plant design and maintenance – then moves to a different level, and this can be seen clearly today for utility-based solar sites. Image: Hanwha Q CELLSAs soon as solar became an asset class, all issues related to component selection – including the modules, the materials used for the module assembly stages, and plant design and maintenance – then moves to a different level, and this can be seen clearly today for utility-based solar sites. Image: Hanwha Q CELLS

With many of the top-20 module suppliers to the solar industry now having multi-GW shipment volumes, attention has turned firmly to assessing metrics that companies can use to benchmark the quality and reliability of shipped products against their competitors.

Almost every week, a different module supplier sends out marketing collateral claiming to be top of a table or the highest in a ranking, performed by a third-party body. It is extremely confusing to those immersed in the daily production analysis of the module suppliers/producers in question: far less, the downstream companies that have to make module purchasing decisions from a less informed perspective.

Indeed, almost every trade show these days seems to have a ‘quality’ workshop or forum bolted on with a different subset of stakeholders, where inevitably the conversation drifts to the difficulty in balancing site capex with project viability, purely from a build perspective.

The backdrop to this confusion has been a major factor in PV-Tech deciding to launch the PV ModuleTech 2017 event, in order to get clarity and informed discussion on these issues, and subsequently propagated through the PV-Tech.org portal to explain to the global solar audience what is really going on, and the issues that are important for correct module selection for major solar investment projects.

Are we moving towards any industry standards?

The range of third-party bodies weighing in on the quality issue has certainly grown in the past few years, and perhaps not unsurprisingly given the growth of the industry and the investor profile that fuels the utility segment (in comparison to rooftop driven segments that were the main driver in the feed-in-tariff days of early solar growth).

As soon as solar became an asset class, all issues related to component selection – including the modules, the materials used for the module assembly stages, and plant design and maintenance – then moves to a different level, and this can be seen clearly today for utility-based solar sites.

Many different labels are being used by module suppliers, including third-party certification, test-and-inspection, bankability studies, factory audits, and purely academic studies such as the misleading Tier-1 tables often disseminated in the public domain. Some companies combine different aspects of these, but as yet, it is fair to say that an industry-wide standard has not emerged as to the definitive or ‘gold’ standard that all companies should strive towards.

Sub-contracting & OEM outsourcing is still the bigger issue

With factory audits and module inspection being a key feature of any quality/bankability study, and featuring in most of the third-party assessments of module suppliers, we are compelled to return to one issue that is still muddying the waters for many of the leading c-Si module suppliers: in-house component production.

How can rankings of suppliers be done with accuracy when so much of the key components (wafers, cells and modules) are outsourced at levels that change considerably across any given calendar year? Even if one was to label wafers as raw materials consumables (which they are certainly not), then we still have the fundamental issue of contracted module assembly, where a factory audit of the module supplier selling the product becomes almost superfluous.

Therefore, one could argue that as a starting point, ‘quality’ is by default heavily weighted to those companies that have production and materials supply ownership over the greatest fraction of their shipped modules. This is a key topic that has become somewhat lost in the past few years, with so many fixated on GW-levels of annual shipments, and so many project developers and EPCs are essentially blind to this, not to mention the asset owners and managers of acquired as-built sites.

In this context, we decided to do some new analysis based on the leading module suppliers that will be speaking at PV ModuleTech 2017, in Kuala Lumpur on 7-8 November 2017.

First, let’s return to the module supplier rankings by shipment for last year, where we ranked companies purely from a shipment standpoint for global, China-only, and Non-China markets.

The eight leading module suppliers by shipped volumes, including the top-5 in China and the top-6 for non-China end-markets will be speaking at PV ModuleTech 2017.The eight leading module suppliers by shipped volumes, including the top-5 in China and the top-6 for non-China end-markets will be speaking at PV ModuleTech 2017.

Excluding Yingli Green and Wuxi Suntech (that have less presence outside China now compared to other Chinese global module brands), the only companies from our listing above that are not yet confirmed to be speaking at PV ModuleTech are SunPower, SolarWorld and REC Solar.

However, having the leading eight modules suppliers globally explain how their product supply is ticking all the boxes that are being used by the certification bodies, test houses and independent engineers is almost certainly a first for any global conference in the solar industry, and will be a massive takeaway for all the EPCs and project developers that are set to be in the audience in Kuala Lumpur on 7-8 November.

Therefore, as a starting point, we confine our ‘in-house’ production statistics here to the leading eight module suppliers that are shown above and will be delivering key talks at PV ModuleTech.

Explaining the methodology

Firstly, we need to standardize c-Si and thin-film, with First Solar the only company in our ‘quality’ module grouping here that is based on thin-film.

The obvious way to do this is to treat polysilicon like glass, and then basically the thin-film production line is doing the c-Si equivalent value-chain roles of ingot/wafer/cell/module.
Another way of looking at this is from the other perspective. A thin-film fab in the c-Si world would have ingot/wafer/cell/module production all in one building and 100% in-house supplied/produced, so that only chunks of polysilicon were going into the factory, and only finished modules would be going out. The closest we ever got to this actually happening was the REC Solar concept in Tuas, and currently can be seen in Adani’s mid-term strategy at Mundra.

The only subjective point comes down to the significance or weighting placed on using in-house/third-party ingots, wafers, cells and modules, and one can make arguments one way or another on this. We chose a simple pathway here that is by no means conclusive, but serves to explain the key message visually.

Wafer supply was selected as the least sensitive, with cell the most important, and modules somewhere in between (although it can be hard to really know whose cells are being used when the modules are being completely outsourced and simply rebranded by the final seller to the EPCs or installers).

So we based the rankings of in-house production ‘quality’ based on wafers, cells and modules only, and then used this weighted number as a fraction of the final module shipment levels from the companies.

The results of this are shown below now:

While First Solar is the only 100% in-house producer across all the major module suppliers today, with a greater portion of wafers (LONGi) and cells/modules (JA Solar and Hanwha Q-CELLS) produced in-house for shipped c-Si module volumes, these three c-Si leaders have the greatest claim to in-house traceability going all the way back to bill-of-materials involved.While First Solar is the only 100% in-house producer across all the major module suppliers today, with a greater portion of wafers (LONGi) and cells/modules (JA Solar and Hanwha Q-CELLS) produced in-house for shipped c-Si module volumes, these three c-Si leaders have the greatest claim to in-house traceability going all the way back to bill-of-materials involved.

A key factor in some of the leading names having lower percentage rankings in the above graphic can be traced back directly to the individual companies’ strategies to gain market-share and show investors year-on-year shipment growth figures, backed up by having global branding status that remains the exclusive domain of no more than 20 module suppliers globally today.

The conclusions from the above analysis should certainly be factors that feed into any third-party exercise that then looks at directly measurable factors across component production, material selection, module testing and other supplier bankability factors.

Source: PV-Tech

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